Kenya: Govt on course for clash with Media Council over monitoring of election coverage

Regulation & Policy

The government and the media were headed for a clash Tuesday with the former threatening to disband an independent industry watchdog. Director of Information Ezekiel Mutua said the Media Council of Kenya would be deregistered should it be established it intended to thwart the efforts of a taskforce set up by government to review the coverage of the general election by setting up a parallel review team.

Speaking at his Teleposta Towers office, Mutua said while the government did not intend to interfere with the work of the Media Council, it would not entertain the same from the media body. The occasion was the announcement of a committee to oversee the shift to digital television from analogue television.

Information Minister Samwel Poghisio said the Media Council could not purport to formulate policy, which is the purview of the government. "Media Council cannot, will not contradict what the government taskforce is doing," he said. He said he trusted the Media Council was a professional body that valued consultations in what they set out to do.

The permanent secretary, Dr Bitange Ndemo said the taskforce had a wider mandate that included assisting in formulating policy on how future coverage of elections and conduct of opinion polls was to be done. "The taskforce is broad-based for the media industry. It's not only about who will be found guilty."

The Media Council cannot formulate policy for government and cannot audit themselves," Dr Ndemo said. He said the media council included media managers and media owners, hence could not be trusted to make fair decisions. But the Media Council has set up its own team to assess the performance of the media industry.

The taskforce will cover a wide range of topics including coverage of the December election, said Media Council of Kenya chairman Wachira Waruru. The Royal Media managing director said the council was exercising its mandate as stipulated in the Media Act of 2007. Mr Waruru said the Act requires the council to conduct a survey on media performance every year and reveal the outcome to the public. He hinted that the team's terms of reference would incorporate concerns of the public, Government and the media.